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Starbucks to close May 29 for racial bias training; CEO meets with 2 black men arrested

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Joe Torres reports on the racial-bias training implemented by the CEO of Starbucks. (Melissa DePino)

In the wake of backlash after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia, the company announced Tuesday that it will be closing its more than 8,000 owned stores in the United States on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination.

The training will be provided to nearly 175,000 employees across the country and will become part of the onboarding process for new hires.

"I've spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it," CEO Kevin Johnson said. "While this is not limited to Starbucks, we're committed to being a part of the solution. Closing our stores for racial bias training is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local communities."

Johnson met with the two black men who were arrested inside a Center City Philadelphia store last week, a company spokeswoman said, though she did not disclose details of the meeting.

Earlier, Johnson said he wanted to meet the two men in person to offer a face-to-face apology. Meanwhile, peaceful protesters staged a sit-in Monday at the location on 18th and Spruce streets.

Local leaders took to a podium outside, just hours after Johnson arrived at City Hall to discuss the incident where the two men were arrested for allegedly trespassing while reportedly waiting for a business meeting.

The store manager called 911 after the men asked to use the bathroom but did not buy anything from the store. Protesters had been calling for the manager's firing since the arrests last week.

A company spokeswoman confirms that the manager at the Starbucks who called police is no longer an employee at the store. It is unclear at this time if she is still employed with the company.

Related: Kevin Hart to Philadelphia Starbucks: Make this right

Johnson also met Monday with local leaders, including Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross. He left the meeting vowing that what happened last Thursday will not happen again. Johnson said the company will have a training for store managers on "unconscious bias."

"We're looking at all aspects to ensure that this never happens again," Johnson said Monday.

Asked if the incident was a case of racism, he responded: "Starbucks was built around the concept of a third place where we create a warm and welcoming environment for all customers. What I do know is that did not happen in this instance. And that is what we're focused on."

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson was also a part of the talks.

"The meeting was all lip service," he said. "I'm not sold. I am going to wait and see the change they are talking about put in place."

This second day of protests kept the Starbucks store near Rittenhouse Square from opening to the public. The store reopened on Tuesday.

On Monday morning, the protesters entered the store and chanted, "Starbucks Coffee is anti-black."

"They will not make money at the Starbucks today," said Abdul-Ali Muhammad, of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative. "We will hit them where it hurts, and that's in their pockets."

For nearly five hours, more than two dozen protesters filled the Starbucks, expressing their outrage over Thursday's arrests.

Video of the incident has now racked up more than 10 million views and prompted the demonstrations. Protesters with the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative and Philly for Real Justice lined up outside of the store in the pouring rain beginning at 7 a.m. Minutes later, they filed in.

The protest forced the store to shut down for the busy morning rush. Some customers got angry as they were turned away. Though things remained peaceful, tempers flared and at times, protesters directed their anger at employees, mostly from corporate.

Some hid, while others stood at a distance.

"We are here to tell you that that is not acceptable, and ma'am, since you want to know so much, what you are going to do is change those policies, what you are going to do is stop calling the police, because we are committed to being here are much as possible," one activist said.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Ross said he stands by the officers who made the arrest saying they were simply following procedure.

"Unless someone comes forward with something more than I know now, it doesn't appear that they did anything wrong at all," he said. "In fact, they were really trying not to make an arrest in this case."

After their arrests, the two men were released early Friday morning. The Philadelphia District Attorney declined to press charges because of a lack of evidence.

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